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Download The Lady and the Panda: The True Adventures of the First American Explorer to Bring Back China’s Most Exotic Animal Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Lady and the Panda: The True Adventures of the First American Explorer to Bring Back China’s Most Exotic Animal, by Vicki Constantine Croke, Vicki Croke Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (528 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Vicki Constantine Croke, Vicki Croke Narrator: Jennifer Van Dyc Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Here is the astonishing true story of Ruth Harkness, the Manhattan bohemian socialite who, against all but impossible odds, trekked to Tibet in 1936 to capture the most mysterious animal of the day: a bear that had for countless centuries lived in secret in the labyrinth of lonely cold mountains. In The Lady and the Panda, Vicki Constantine Croke gives us the remarkable account of Ruth Harkness and her extraordinary journey, and restores Harkness to her rightful place along with Sacajawea, Nellie Bly, and Amelia Earhart as one of the great woman adventurers of all time.

Ruth was the toast of 1930s New York, a dress designer newly married to a wealthy adventurer, Bill Harkness. Just weeks after their wedding, however, Bill decamped for China in hopes of becoming the first Westerner to capture a giant panda–an expedition on which many had embarked and failed miserably. Bill was also to fail in his quest, dying horribly alone in China and leaving his widow heartbroken and adrift. And so Ruth made the fateful decision to adopt her husband’s dream as her own and set off on the adventure of a lifetime.

It was not easy. Indeed, everything was against Ruth Harkness. In decadent Shanghai, the exclusive fraternity of white male explorers patronized her, scorned her, and joked about her softness, her lack of experience and money. But Ruth ignored them, organizing, outfitting, and leading a bare-bones campaign into the majestic but treacherous hinterlands where China borders Tibet. As her partner she chose Quentin Young, a twenty-two-year-old Chinese explorer as unconventional as she was, who would join her in a romance as torrid as it was taboo.

Traveling across some of the toughest terrain in the world–nearly impenetrable bamboo forests, slick and perilous mountain slopes, and boulder-strewn passages–the team raced against a traitorous rival, and was constantly threatened by hordes of bandits and hostile natives. The voyage took months to complete and cost Ruth everything she had. But when, almost miraculously, she returned from her journey with a baby panda named Su Lin in her arms, the story became an international sensation and made the front pages of newspapers around the world. No animal in history had gotten such attention. And Ruth Harkness became a hero. 

Drawing extensively on American and Chinese sources, including diaries, scores of interviews, and previously unseen intimate letters from Ruth Harkness, Vicki Constantine Croke has fashioned a captivating and richly textured narrative about a woman ahead of her time. Part Myrna Loy, part Jane Goodall, by turns wisecracking and poetic, practical and spiritual, Ruth Harkness is a trailblazing figure. And her story makes for an unforgettable, deeply moving adventure.

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Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Tara | 2/18/2014

    " Non-fiction is not my favorite, so most of my NF reading is by force. But this is an example of why book clubs are so great! This was required reading, and I loved it. Ruth Harkness was an amazing woman, and it was fascinating to read about a time before the term "endangered species" was created. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Ellen | 2/12/2014

    " This was an interesting account of the adventurer responsible for bringing back America's first Panda. More of a biography than I normally go for but the history involved was very interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Kathy | 2/11/2014

    " This is a story of an interesting American woman who very few people know of. Ruth Harkness was a Manhattan socialite, who after her husband died, committed her life to carrying our her husband's dream of being the first to capture a giant panda and bring it to America. This is a fascinating account of her journey to Tibet in 1936 and the challenges she faced securing America's first panda. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Tiffany | 2/6/2014

    " My friend Adam (refrax on my friends list) got this book for me for my birfday. I liked it. I wasn't pleased with the treatment of the pandas back then, but that doesn't have anything to do with the book, I suppose. This woman basically dedicates her life to fulfilling the dream her husband died chasing. It's sad and happy at the same time. I would recommend it to...any other Tiffanys out there! "

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